A deadlift may simply be described as lifting of dead weights. It is a weight training exercise in which a barbell or bar is lifted off the ground to the level of the hips and then lowered to the ground. There are three power lifting exercises – deadlift, squat and bench-press. You can perform deadlifts using dumb bells, bar bells or kettle bells.

The deadlift is a highly effective lift for building strength shape and muscle fullness. It’s one of the most natural body movements. It stimulates your entire body and results in a very high caloric burn.

The deadlift targets the entire posterior chain including the hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae and latissumus dosi.

Deadlift stages

To get into the correct position for deadlift, approach the bar and place your feet just broader than the width of your hips. Your hands should be placed just wider than your shins. The barbell should be directly over the laces of your shoes.

Before your first rep, retract your shoulder blades and tense your lats. This will put your shoulder directly over the barbell and position your body for optimal force production. The beginning of the lift is just like a leg press. Make sure that when you start your shins are perpendicular to the floor. This should put your hips at the correct height. Your hamstrings will activate first, until the quads take over and extend your legs.


When the bar reaches your knees, thrust your hips forward by squeezing your glutes. When you bring the bar down, do so quickly and with control. keep the bar close to your body just as you did on the way up and stick your butt out to collapse your body into the starting position.

Deadlifts vs Squats

Deadlifts and squats are two sides of the same coin, both being two of the best exercises for building up strength. Yet, they work differently on the muscles.

While squats are considered the best quadriceps exercise, where calves are at work, deadlift is undoubtedly the best exercise for glutes and hamstrings, as it requires so much hip workout. In deadlift all the pressure is applied through the heels, whereas the pressure in a squat is spread across the foot and thereby the calves.

Both deadlifts, as well as squats, build strength. However, due to the different nature of the body movement, the resultant pressure on the rib cage and abdominal muscles is so much more in case of deadlift. As forearms and biceps are worked intensely in a deadlift using many more muscles than any other lift, it scores over its nearest rival, the squat.

What Muscles Do Deadlifts Work?

Deadlift is deservingly hailed as the ‘king of weight lifting’ and hence, several variations of deadlifts have evolved over time. Each variation targets a specific goal. However, the standard deadlift uses the following muscle groups:

Muscle Groups

  • Finger Flexors (Forearms)
  • Erector Spinae (Back)
  • Gluteal Muscles (Hip)
  • Hamstrings (Legs)
  • Quadriceps (Legs)
  • Adductor Magnus (Legs)

Individual Muscles

  • Rectus Abdominis (Abs)
  • External Oblique Muscle (Abs)
  • Internal Oblique Muscle (Abs)
  • Iliocostalis (Back)
  • Intertransversarii Laterales Lumborum (Back)
  • Latissimus Dorsi (Back)
  • Levator Scapulae (Back)
  • Longissimus (Back)
  • Quadratus Lumborum (Back)
  • Rhomboideus Major (Back)
  • Serratus Posterior Superior (Back)
  • Serratus Posterior Inferior (Back)
  • Splenius Cervicis (Back)
  • Teres Major (Back)
  • Trapezius Muscle (Back)
  • Rectus Femoris (Legs)
  • Vastus Lateralis (Legs)
  • Vastus Intermedius (Legs)
  • Vastus Medialis (Legs)
  • Semitendinosus (Legs)
  • Semimembranosus (Legs)
  • Biceps Femoris (Legs)
  • Biceps Brachii Muscle (Arms)
  • Gluteus Maximus (Hips)
  • Gluteus Minimus (Hips)
  • Piriformis (Hips)
  • Superior gemellus (Hips)
  • Flexor digitorum profundus (Forearms)

Benefits of Deadlift

It is the best exercise for building core strength that supports all other major muscle groups. The central muscles of the body, lower back, glutes and the abdominal region constitute core strength. Deadlift supports the body in almost every movement and position. It is a total body workout.

In addition to the above benefit, deadlift has several additional advantages:

  • Minimum Equipment – All you require is a bar and some enthusiasm, that is it!
  • Helps in Correcting Posture – Deadlift comes as blessing in disguise because of the emphasis on keeping your back straight throughout the exercise, which in turn, helps in maintaining balance and weight transference.
  • Safety – It is relatively safer than squats and bench press as the risk of injury by getting pinned down is unlikely.
  • Core Fitness – As deadlift increases core strength you may actually be able to some heavy lifting by the end of the month without hurting yourself.
  • Cardio Respiratory Fitness – This exercise when practiced intensely boosts your respiratory system and thereby improves cardiovascular health.

Use of the Hook Grip for the Deadlift

Over time, as the weight is increased, lifters would eventually experience difficulty holding onto the bar with a double overhead grip and may need to switch to a hook grip. In the hook grip, the thumb is tucked under the middle and index fingers directly against the bar, which makes it stronger than the overhead grip.

deadlift hook grip

You may dislike the sensation of the thumb being pinched against the barbell, but would get used to it with regular practice over time and it will not be a bother, anymore. There is another alternative, ie, using mixed grip. However, it has the drawback of putting uneven stress on the shoulder besides being unsafe.

Using Lifting Straps for Deadlift:

Lifting straps may come in handy during this workout. If the lifter has a hand injury that prevents them from gripping the weights, lifting straps are recommended. Similarly, if one had a recent shoulder or bicep injury, it is advisable to use the same, on the heavier sets. Even in cases where lifters are already undergoing grip training, it is better to use lifting straps to prevent overstraining the grip.

lifting straps for deadlift

However, some experts advise that lifting straps should not be used as an excuse for preventing hand injury or overstraining. In addition, they say that one should not skip a training session because of the injury; rather, the lifter should suck it up.

Deadlift for Women

Some women may be under the impression that deadlifts are best suited for men. They are far from being right. By lifting heavy weights aggressively, the body hormones undergo many changes. Apart from the overall benefits of strength and power, it adds to the aesthetic look of the body by helping you to achieve a toned and lifted butt. Almost every woman would love deadlift just to get the unwanted fat off the thighs and butt, if not for other benefits.

Lifting heavy weights is traditionally considered as a male bastion, while on a deadlift program, women would enjoy the feeling of empowerment.

Deadlift Alternatives

The benefits of deadlift in building strength of the hips, lower back extension, upper back and grip, are well known. However, its magic may not always work. As one ages, the hips and ankles do not bend well, as with the youngsters. Decreased mobility restricts efforts to raise weights and if one is not conscious of their limitation, the risk of injury, increases.

The physical build is also a limiting factor. A shorter person does not face the challenges in lifting weights, as much as a taller person does. Nevertheless, there are several other exercises, which one can choose from, to attain the same goal of strength and power, as in deadlifts.

  • Rack Pulls: This workout is suitable for taller people, as well as those who have lost mobility due to aging.
  • Trap Bar Deadlift: As the Bar is a few inches higher off the ground, the balancing act of the exercise is more comfortable as compared to a traditional deadlift.
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts: They focus more on the legs and your bumps, while being easier on the lower back.
  • Sumo Deadlift High Pull: It is one of the basic forms of CrossFit exercise that focuses on strengthening the hamstrings, upper traps, glutes and the lower back.

Deadlifts will help you develop a strong core and back. They’ll add firmness to your muscles especially your legs and butt and can be used for shoulder rehabilitation. Dead lifting regularly will improve your overall mobility and reveal any muscular imbalances you may have.

Close Menu